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Why Screen Reader Testing Is Important (And How To Do It Right)

Posted August 16, 2023


Posted August 16, 2023

A screen reader being used to test a website for alternative text
A screen reader being used to test a website for alternative text

To build an accessible website, you’ll need to test your content for screen reader compatibility. Here’s an overview of the best practices.

Testing your content for screen reader compatibility is an important part of providing an accessible experience for all users and complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Screen readers are specialized computer software that convert text displayed on a computer into a usable format for those who cannot read it. They work in one of two ways:

  • Text-to-speech, where the words are read directly to the user.
  • Braille display, where the user can read the output through a tactile pad that translates the words into Braille.

Using a free screen reader to access your website is the simplest way to test if your content is compatible with screen readers. However, this approach isn’t without some risk. People who don’t have much experience with screen readers can miss important accessibility barriers — or find “issues” that aren’t actually problems for users.

In this post, we discuss the basics of accessibility testing — and share tips on how to include screen reader users for better results.

What Are the Different Approaches to Accessibility Testing?

Every organization addresses accessibility testing differently.

Some hire consultants to go through each line of code on their website, flagging issues and compiling a report of fixes. However, the static nature of these audits means that organizations only get a snapshot of their site’s accessibility — each update or change can introduce new accessibility issues that won’t be caught until the next audit.

Others work with accessibility vendors that use automation to find and fix common accessibility issues. However, it’s important to note that these solutions cannot find every issue — nor can they account for the user experience as well as a solution that involves people.

At AudioEye, we think the right approach is one that combines the scalability and always-on nature of AI-driven automation with the first-hand expertise of screen reader users.

Chart that says 1 million people in the U.S. are legally blind and this number is expected to increase by 21% each decade.

Why Does Screen Reader Accessibility Matter?

Today, many individuals with vision disabilities use screen readers as a primary tool for reading, navigating, and interacting with content. An estimated 1 million people in the United States are legally blind — and that number is expected to increase by 21% each decade. While not all of those people use screen readers, many do.

Screen readers aren’t just for people with visual impairments, either.

Each year, WebAIM (Web Accessibility In Mind) conducts a demographic survey of screen reader users. In 2021, 7.7% of respondents said they do not use a screen reader due to a specific disability.

There’s also a legal component to making sure your website works for all users, whether they’re using screen readers or other assistive technologies. Some of the most important web accessibility-related lawsuits have involved plaintiffs who use screen readers, including Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC.

Graphics representing some of the accessibility barriers for screen readers, including keyboard traps, missing image alt text, missing language tags, and missing title tags.

How Do Screen Reader Users Browse the Internet?

Screen reader users typically use a keyboard to navigate the internet, and rely on different keyboard shortcuts to scan website content, fill in forms, and perform other common tasks.

When paired with developers dedicated to creating an accessible experience, a screen reader user can pinpoint areas of improvement, such as:

Test Your Content for Screen Reader Accessibility with AudioEye 

Many issues that affect screen readers can be detected through automated audits. AudioEye’s platform runs over 400 tests to find accessibility errors, then fixes most of them automatically.

However, some issues require human guidance for remediation. For example, automated tools can tell you whether your website contains alt tags for images, but cannot determine whether the text is descriptive.

To help address these issues, AudioEye offers user testing by people who use screen readers on a daily basis and access to certified experts, who can provide routine manual remediations and guidance.

If you’re ready to test your content for screen reader accessibility, we’re ready to help. Download our white paper to learn more AudioEye's approach to digital accessibility or get started with a free trial today.

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